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Black History Month Spotlight: Vincent Johnson

By Luke Fichter

Shuck Shack is a snack food company focusing on Fresh Corn offerings. The corn-focused business offers 27 combinations of spices and marinades. The corn is prepared either on the cob or shaved off the cob and served in a bowl. Shuck Shack focuses on the changing eating habits of Americans and produces mostly vegan and gluten free, fresh, corn-based menu items. The Shuck Shack at Pentagon City Mall was opened by Mr. Vincent Johnson, a Black veteran who has also spent significant time in the corporate world. Learn more about Mr. Vincent Johnson's story below.

What inspired you to be a business owner?

I have always wanted to be a small business owner.  I have over 26 years of corporate experience.  However, working in sales for a very large Software corporation opened my eyes to the “machine."  Making more and more money for organizations who paid me pennies on the dollar was not an optimal situation for me. In addition, I wanted to call my own “shots” and make my own decisions.  I’ve always wanted to be more in control in my financial destiny. Finding the idea for the Shuck Shack finally gave me the confidence to step out on my own.  

How does your identity influence how you approach your work?

I consider myself to be a fun-loving, hard-working, family man. And I believe that identity comes through when running my business. My staff, led by my kiosk Manager Wallace Dews, will tell you that I love to keep the work atmosphere light and funny. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned after 8 years in the Army Reserves and 26 years in the corporate world is that productivity happens when workers are happy. I’ve managed, been managed, and have tons of experience observing large and small organizations. My management style is a hybrid approach, learned from my time as a manager, and from all the good and bad managers I have encountered over my military and corporate career.  

How did you get to where you are today?

I arrived where I am today by hard work, consistency, and saving money.  Over my 22 year employment at Microsoft Corp. I was able to save the money I needed to open my business. To save that money, it took all of those 22 years. I tell anyone who asks about being an entrepreneur, you need two important things.  One -- a great idea; And two -- money.  Without both those things you’re just dreaming.

How do you deal with setbacks?

I deal with setbacks by sitting and conferring with my wife and business partner, Gatrie. She can be brutally honest. She often brings an entirely new perspective to the issue helping to make the best business decision. If I’m wrong she will tell me I’m wrong, and offer some suggestions based on her accounting career.

What advice would you give to someone just starting their own business?

Find the right idea and be original. Get out and see the world. New experiences will spark new and better ideas. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur for years, however, the right idea eluded me until a trip to Miami for a friend's birthday party.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

In five years I see Shuck Shack expanding across the DMV.  We are very interested in opening new locations in local high foot traffic areas. The Wharf in DC, Arundel Mills Mall, The Inner Harbor in Baltimore are a few places we’ve thought about. We would like to open a new revenue stream by going into Grocery stores. We have ideas around offering prepared fresh corn bowls with our unique spices. We are also looking at producing a salad dressing/marinade as well. In addition, the possibility of offering our corn bowls in vending machines is another thought -- as well as additional Mobile Corn Units. In 5 years, I see Shuck Shack as full fledged corporation with 30-40 employees. One thing is for sure, in these first 3 years we have learned that people really love corn. And that if you simply give me lots of foot traffic we can sell enough corn to make a profitable business.